Chipping away at the to-do list at the home on Santa Rosa's Matanzas Creek that he's owned for four years, Ira McKern plucked up an old stepping stone in the backyard.

What's this? Letters and numbers were carved into it.

McKern realized the stepping stone was the broken half of a headstone. He quickly found the stone that was the other half.

The name on it is Thomas Ross. He was 19 when he died in 1882, 130 years ago.

McKern contacted the hardy volunteers at the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. They did some checking and determined that Thomas Ross was indeed buried at the historic graveyard and that his headstone has been gone so long no one can recall ever seeing it.

"Perhaps it was taken way back in the &‘60s, when the cemetery was all but abandoned," said Bill Montgomery, a leader of the cemetery volunteers and a retired city parks chief.

He and the other keepers of the Rural Cemetery love it that about one displaced headstone a year is finding its way back to a grave.

Volunteers think the repaired stone that's back beside those of Thomas Ross' parents looks pretty good, all things considered.

AN ACE'S PLACE: Every minute there was something stirring to see at the Veterans Day parade Sunday in Petaluma, by far the biggest and busiest ever.

P-51 Mustang fighters, a B-25 Mitchell bomber and other vintage aircraft rumbled overhead as scores of military veterans felt the appreciation while marching in the great, downtown procession or saluting it as part of the crowd of more than 30,000.

In Walnut Park, Petaluma Peace Officers Association Members worked a barbecue that brought in about $2,000. All will go to help Petaluma- raised Monte Bernardo, who lost a hand and most of both legs in a July 4 bomb blast in Afghanistan.

In the parade that began and ended at the park, <QA0>

spectators noticed there was no one riding in the backseat of one of the rolling tribute's 26 gorgeous Corvettes.

A sign on that &‘Vette noted the absence of Petaluma's Col. James B. Morehead, the WWII flying and two-time Distinguished Service Cross recipient who died at 95 in March.

XERXES RAN ANYWAY: Trekking to New York City earlier this month was no piece of cake for poet, motivational speaker and Windsor Middle School P.E. teacher and tennis coach Xerxes Whitney.

Working harder because of his cerebral palsy, Whitney arrived ready to run the New York Marathon. About the time he collected his racing bib, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the deaths and destruction from superstorm Sandy forced him to cancel the marathon.

Whitney, who had collected money from supporters to benefit Science Camp, simply changed course. He was among the undeterred marathoners who went to Central Park and ran 26 miles there.

Fellow Windsor Middle teacher Brett Daniel aptly notes Whitney doesn't just walk the talk, he runs it.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and